Saturday, June 25, 2011

And Then The Past Recedes

We were riding in the car. Actually, it was our old blue Mitsubishi Montero.  It only had one seat in the back - very different from the enormous, Nasty Big Boy Van I drive now.  But we only needed the one seat, because we were the typical American-sized family at the time.  We were the obnoxiously proud parents of exactly two children, and Ellie and Joel rode in the back, ages four and two. 

We were driving through the country....Jeff was humming to the my mirror I could see Joel with his brows drawn together as if he were thinking about something.  When Joel thought about something he tended to use all of his facial muscles to do it.  Ellie was just hanging out in her booster seat.  A particular sense of melancholy rode along with me. I was happy, but feeling the pangs of impermanence. The details of this trip in the car...where were we going? I can't recall....I only remember the details of those few seconds.  But I remember them so clearly.  I knew I was in a living snapshot....I had this sense that nothing was real - nothing was permanent - we were images captured but for a moment. Nothing was any more solid than the dream you wake up from in the morning.

Joel and I seemed to be on the same wavelength because he said, "Someday we'll be two mommies and two daddies driving in this car."  He couldn't say his it sounded like caw.  I smiled, clinging to that mispronounced R-sound.  Because I knew it would wasn't real and solid and something I could hold onto.  I remember I actually grabbed the door at that point - I wanted to feel something firm and hard and solid to remind myself that it was all least for the moment. 

Joel, at the age of two, grasped the concept that things were going to change...that things were, in fact, changing as we drove along that country road.  Two mommies and two daddies...mommy and daddy being his euphemisms for grown-ups.  So he understood the change of growing up...he understood he was going to get bigger and turn into an adult...but he didn't grasp the enormity of it.  He didn't grasp the hugeness of the change, or the implications of it.  He wasn't just going to get bigger, he would be reborn a thousand times over...he'd become a new person with each lost tooth, each new skill, every new discovery...and with each rebirth, there was sure to be a tiny...death.

To Joel, this enormous truth was processed in the only way his two-year-old mind could do it. He would get bigger. His sister would get bigger.  Mom and Dad would stay exactly the same because they were already big. And the four of us would forever drive along that road together in the blue Montero...Mom and Dad in the front, and Joel and his sister, all grown up and riding in their usual spots in the backseat. 

I smiled at the vision.  It was such a sweet one.  And I remember trying to imagine what they'd look like when they were all grown up. I couldn't do it.  The young woman and young man of the future were total strangers to me....their images drifted just outside of my mind's eye, blurry and remaining stubbornly unfocused.  Yet, they were as real to me as the two children in the backseat, which is to say, not very real at all. That's how I felt at the moment.

I'm feeling that way again.  As if my life and the people and things in it are made of mist.  I want to hold keep things just as they driving along the road with this new, bigger our Big Church Bus, as the kids call it.  I want us to just stay like this....but we, as we are right now, are not solid enough for me to grasp. We're not solid at all.  The only thing constant about us is our unending metamorphosis.

Joel has his first summer job as a lifeguard.  He takes on as many hours as he can...both because he is in the process of buying Ellie's old car, and because he loves being with new friends and co-workers at the pool.  He's having the time of his life.  He opted out of a recent family vacation, along with Ellie, who was at a music festival.  And the rest of us drove to South Padre, a set of parents and three children....three children who were unseen, unborn, and unbelievably absent from my life that day in the Montero. Try to hold on to that thought with any level of understanding.  It's impossible.

Joel hugged me out of the blue last night.  He's so much bigger than me, now.  He'd been at the pool all day.  He smelled like chlorine.  His arms were strong, and he squeezed me tightly.  He rested his chin on the top of my head.  I wanted to cry, but then he began rubbing his chin across the top of my head very hard (it hurt), saying that he was an expert in chin/scalp massage.  So I laughed instead, and he let go, and casually walked away.  Always walking away. 

Ellie is mostly gone nowadays, too.  She's busy going to lessons, teaching lessons, leaving for days at a time for music festivals and competitions, getting ready for college and wanting to see her friends.  She senses the instability of the moment as well, but I don't think I'm often among the concerns about the things in her life that are changing.  Which is as it should be.  But last night she came home from a friend's recital in the city.  And instead of barging through the door to hit the piano (even though it was late at night) or hit the study to get on skype with her boyfriend....she came back to me, where I sat quietly trying to cling to my life, chasing it in my mind like little balls of mercury.

"Hey," she said.

"How was the recital?"

"Good."  She sat down, picked up the nearest guitar, saw some printed tabs sitting on what used to be a meditative fountain of mine but has since been claimed by Jeff as a music stand and pick holder.  "Ooh," she said. "Dad's been playing John Frusciante."  She gave me a little sexy glance.  She easily began strumming, little delicate brows scrunched up with the effort of figuring out the tabs.  For a kid who doesn't play the guitar anymore, she plays really well.  She used to play the guitar all the time, but then she decided to do something else and that was that.  She's better at letting go than I am.  I'm a look-behind girl, and she's a look-ahead girl.  And it isn't because she's young and I'm old.  I've always been a look-behind girl.

She chatted back and forth with Jeff, who was already in bed, about this note or that and this fret or that, complaining about the tabs, which they decided weren't quite right....and plucked away at my one of my favorite Frusciante songs, The Past Recedes. Strangely appropriate.

"Sing the chorus, Mom," she said. "I can't remember how it goes."

I did. Badly.

"Ahh....and here's the part where John plays the solo..." she made some noise on the guitar and that face she makes when she's being a little bit silly.  She waved her hands around to indicate there was no way in hell she could play it....made some noises....and set the guitar down.

We talked.  For almost an hour.  I can't remember about what, none of it really mattered. What mattered is that the whirlwind had stopped for a moment, and we'd become a snapshot together.  And I clung. 

While she talked, I focused on her beautiful face.  It was the grown-up woman face that had eluded me that day in the Montero.  More beautiful than I could have imagined. 

I looked into it,searching for the face of the four-year-old.  But she was gone. Vanished.  I reached for the arm of the chair I was sitting in....solid.

"Well, I'm going to bed," she said suddenly, standing up.

"Ellie," I said.  "Thanks."

She smiled her huge smile, looked at me in a way that let me know that it had, indeed, been a gift to me....this little chat of ours. She wasn't going to deny it.  She knows my world is an earthquake at the moment....the ground constantly moving beneath my she and her brother get on with this business of growing up.

"You're welcome, Mom."

Go and be happy, I thought.  And then a scene from Kung Fu Panda II popped into my head.  I HATE it when that happens. I didn't like that movie, by the way, and slept through some of wasn't bad....I'm just not entertained by children's movies like I used to be.  Anyway, there is a scene that made me cry right there in the theater.  Because it was My Scene.  My Life. My World At The Moment. In it, Po is leaving his dad to go fight the bad guys.  And his dad, Mr. Ping, is just a hand-wringing, sniffling mess about it. 

But what if you don't come back?

Dad, I'll be back.  But first, I have to go save China.

I smiled as she walked away. 

Fine already. Go save China, Ellie.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do NOT alert the Lame-Stream Media

Hold onto your seats and don't you DARE contact the lame-stream media.....Sardine Mama is soon to take a little va-cay-cay. That's right! Just like Sarah Palin, I'm blowin' this joint. With several of my children and my husband. But it still counts as a va-cay-cay because there is no dishwasher to unload.

So yeah....ME....a small-town married American woman of five children with little to no work experience in national politics and a hot husband.....ME a former beauty queen high school drum major who is highly prone to quitting jobs after about two years (I get bored easily), is taking a little breaky-poo.....a Bus Tour, if you will. Okay, actually more of a mini-van tour - I'm not like Joe Plumber and the Rest of Middle Class America who own a tour bus and work for FOX News.  It isn't like I have managed to snag my own reality TV show YET.  But one is in the works.  It is called Sardine Mama's Texas.  I'm gonna ride a horse and rope a bull.  Or maybe I'll ride a bull and rope a horse.  We do both of those things here and you'll learn all about that on my show. 

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah - my trip. Don't you DARE FOLLOW ME AND PUT ME ON TV AND ASK ME STUPID QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ALAMO THAT ANY THIRD-GRADER COULD ANSWER. Gotcha! I'm not going to tell you when I'm leaving, or where I'm going, because I don't want you to be aware of my schedule in any way or be waiting for me any place while all I'm trying to do is educate poor Piper Camille about the Alamo (I freaking love the name Piper and I am kicking myself over not discovering it sooner). Not that I'll BE at the Alamo. So please don't be waiting for me there. If you want to know where I'm going and what I'm going to do you'll have to FOLLOW ME and that will make me angry because I'm just trying to take a little va-cay-cay, after all, in a business suit.

If I were to go to the Alamo (but I'm not so don't SHOW UP THERE WITH NEWS CAMERAS) I would take a guided tour with my family because don't string me up....but gosh dangit.....I've never taken them to the freaking Alamo.  We drive past it all the time and someone will say, "Look, there's the Alamo."  So it isn't like they haven't SEEN it.  One time we drove past and Jules said, "Look, there's the Alamo."  And then Joel said, "That's not the REAL Alamo, you idiot."  And Jeff looked at me like, Seriously, Sardine Mama? And I looked at him like, Oh, you think this is easy?  You wouldn't last 24 hours, is HARD being a famous non-famous person hounded by the lame-stream media while not-really-raising five kids and not-really-being-governor anymore!!

Anyway - so if I WERE to go to the Alamo and the lame-stream media tried to toss a gotcha' moment at me with a Lame-O question about John Wayne or David Bowie.... I would be totally prepared!!  Because everyone knows the story of the Alamo where we fought the horrible Socialist Mexicans.....half of whom were born in Africa!!  David Bowie (this was before his singin' career DUH) was fresh from the Country of Europe, having rushed to the aid of Other White People in defending the Christian Mission San Antonio de Valero against that Muslim, Santa Anna.  WE WON.  If we hadn't won, all our kids would be forced to speak Mexican and wear sombreros.  There's a wall around the Alamo and that's to keep the Mexicans OUT (unless they're custodians).   But if you stand on your tip-toes, you can peek over the wall and see Mexico, just like I can see it from my house. And I'm keeping my eye on it, too.

If you don't believe this is the true story of the Alamo, you can go look it all up on Wikipedia.  If it doesn't match up, well, wait a few hours and try again.  I have some folks working on that as we speak.  They're called the Texas State Board of Education. They're good people and we're on the same page.

Well, I've gotta run.  So much to do.  I've gotta pack the sunscreen, the camera, and call Rick Perry to see if he'll be my runnin' mate for the election I'm NOT participatin' in.  You remember Rick Perry, right?  He's governor of Texas, which we all know, is no big deal.  ANYONE can be a governor.  Especially for 2 years.  But Rick Perry has been governor of Texas for ten years!!  Ten years!!  Oh my god it's been Ten Freaking Years.  Anyway - yes! Ricky as my runnin' mate!  Of course, first I have to talk him out of running for president.  'Cause rumor is, he's Actually Thinking About It and that frightens me to death because the last not-very-bright-Texas-governor who made me giggle by sayin' he was fixin' to run for president ACTUALLY WON.  Twice. 

Rick's a true Texan and a real American (unlike other people who were born in Texas and vote and work here but who do not agree with The Right and who are therefore - duh - Wrong and UnAmerican).  An example of his patriotism was his proposal that Texas SECEDE FROM THE UNION.  "Let's just freaking secede!  Secede!  Let's just quit the union!  Let's just NOT BE AMERICANS ANYMORE because I don't like the current president and that makes total and complete sense and is a very logical way of dealing with my disappointment! When I'm elected president, we'll rejoin the union!  And then if I'm not re-elected....we'll secede again! And thus forth and so on!"

With Rick Perry at my side, how could I lose?  How could ANY of us lose?  We are the very definition of a Winning Ticket and if you don't believe me, look it up in Wikipedia. 

Okay - well - I'm off to see the world!  Because I will Totally Rule It Soon.
Sardine Mama.....well, that's Madame Mama to You People.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Whereby My Week is Predictably Anchored by Weekends on Both Ends

The weekend is upon us.  And I haven't even recovered from last weekend, yet!

Last weekend was a Big Weekend for two of my kids, Camille and Joel.  Camille is a dancer.  She really is. From a very young age, all she wanted to do was dance or watch other people dancing.  She was especially drawn to ballet - and even at the age of 2 and 3, would sit and watch an entire ballet spellbound.  The same went for opera.  She's only been to one live opera, but has seen several on television and she is always sucked in, quite literally, to that world.  Even if it is in Italian and she hasn't a clue as to what is being said, she knows what is going on.  "That's the bad guy! There's the princess!"  And always....jumping up in between the action to expressively dance the story, or what she thinks is the story.  And can I just add that she'll dance with anybody?  At one time her most willing partner was Jasper.  Not so much the case anymore.

When Camille was three, she started dance lessons in our little town with Miss Erin, who looks, walks, and talks like a dancer, so Camille worshipped her.  She loved it immediately, as expected.  She was one of the more social little girls in the she often didn't know what steps she was supposed to be learning...but when the music came on she danced anyway, and she wasn't bothered at all by the fact that she was often doing completely different steps from the other girls.  It was all rather adorable.

Camille also read about ballet through picture books and some little chapter books that Jeff read to her every night, and when she was 7 she asked me when she would get on pointe.  I explained to her that Erin's students didn't dance on their toes and she sort of freaked.  "But it's my life long dream!" she said.  Now let me just explain something to you about Camille at the age of 7.  SILLY GIRL.  Goofy, giggly, funny, and silly girl.  And here she was crying about her life's dream possibly slipping through her fingers.  "If I don't start training soon, it's all over!" she cried.  I was like, what???  But I did a little research and it turned out she was totally right.

Well, it would have been quite easy for me to blow this off....really really easy to talk about how unlikely it was that she would become a professional ballet dancer and the futility of it all....but I'm a sucker for life long dreams.  And we didn't blow off Ellie when she said she wanted to be a concert pianist, and guess what? She's well on her way to becoming a concert pianist. So even though Camille's personality and nature were the opposite of Ellie's in every way, I still thought she deserved a chance at a real classical ballet education, although I absolutely expected it to be short-lived.  I figured that as soon as Camille was told to be quiet, or forced to do something uncomfortable or difficult, we would be right back with Miss Erin.  But at least this way, there would be no regrets over what might have been in regards to a life long dream.

San Antonio has a professional ballet company, and Camille now takes with its academy.  It has been almost two years since she started there, and there is no indication that she's losing any of her initial enthusiasm. There are rules against silliness, talking, and even yawning, if you can believe it.  The classes are long, repetitious, and consist mostly of strength-building and technique-perfecting drills.  There is no booty-shaking behind the teacher's back (one of Camille's former favorite tricks).  She loves it. After the first class, Camille had come out with her little legs shaking.  She was sore the next day.  And even sorer the next.  But when it was time to go back the following week, she packed her little dance bag and got in the car.  And she's been doing it ever since. 

I'll never forget the evening I picked her up to find her standing quietly in the lobby, looking quite stunned.  I thought maybe she'd gotten in trouble, or someone had been mean to her....something had obviously happened.  "What's wrong?" I asked.  "I've been promoted," she whispered, clearly not believing it.  So now she dances with Big Girls Who Have Bras And Everything.  And she goes more than once a week, which is a sacrifice for me in the driving department, but one I'm happy to make.  Camille, after all, is doing the hard work to justify it.
So: Back to the previous busy weekend.  Camille's ballet academy holds a year-end demonstration.  No sparkly costumes or any of that.  It is simply a demonstration of skills learned before they begin summer lessons.  Camille takes two classes at the academy, jazz and ballet (she's adding lyrical next week).

Her jazz demonstration was on Friday.  Here she is with her teacher, and yes, you do have to be gorgeous to teach dance at this particular academy.  Or at least that seems to be the case, anyway.

The next morning found me dropping Joel off at the crack of dawn for his black belt test.  He's been working toward this goal for years.  He had to write an essay about his journey to get to this point in Tae Kwon Do, and it was beautiful.  I don't think I realized how much it meant to him until I read it.  Of course, it was Pure Joel so there was plenty of goofy business in it, as well.  In fact, when he handed it in to his teacher he made her promise she wouldn't read it unless she was playing Journey's Don't Stop Believing in the background. 

Joel was a pre-pubescent kid when he started....a little on the cuddly/fluffy/not-quite-chubby side....and now....well, he runs at least a mile each day and he's big and tall and has a super low voice and here he is putting on his brand new black belt after a grueling day of testing that included running a mile on what ended up being the hottest day of May (98 degrees or so....).

He didn't want me to stay for the test (what is it with my kids and the Please Go Away Now thing?) but when I came back for the presentation ceremony I got to see him do this:

At this point he was so tired he could hardly stand up straight, but he did break that dang board with his head.  He also fought 3 black belts at once (I missed that but I'm told his strategy was to run like hell and that it worked brilliantly for a while).

Here he is with the other candidates.  The gorgeous blond in the middle who looks like one of Charlie's Angels is his teacher - she's the mother of 7 and a grandmother several times over.  It really raises the bar for the rest of us who were just kind of looking forward to granny rockers on the porch.
My dad had a busy weekend, as well, seeing as how he is a glutton for punishment and likes us to drag him around everywhere.  Here he is posing with Joel....he was trying to show off his hands as weapons but I think his steely gaze was more effective.  Jeff snuck in the back with a Kung Fu Panda Face.
No rest for the weary, we threw everyone in the car and headed back to the ballet studio (an hour away) for Camille's ballet demonstration.  It would have been entirely too convenient for her jazz and ballet demonstrations to have been on the same day.  So here she is with Miss Sally...who comes with the added bonus of speaking with a lovely British accent.

We ended the weekend by going to see The Hangover II which was predictably funny....but so predictably funny that this time it wasn't quite as funny.  But it still had this guy in it, which made the whole thing Worthwhile.

Technically, he's Bradley Cooper.  But he's also known as The Cute Guy From The Hangover.  Jeff didn't know there was a cute guy in The Hangover.  "Which one is the cute one?" he asked, thereby proving once again that he's not gay.  If you google Cute Guy From The Hangover, Bradley's face pops up.  There isn't any first runner-up or anything like that.  There are several guys in The Hangover, and one of them is cute. That's all.  And he's very cute.  I appreciate the heck out of his cuteness.  What I don't appreciate?  Is the fact that multiple morons brought their kids to see this movie.  What is wrong with people?  I just don't get it. 

Memorial Day found us grilling and gardening and doing yard work and entertaining and taking Joel to and from work life guarding at the city's pool.  And by us, I mean Jeff.  I mostly recovered from the previous two days by reading non-stop. 

Now THIS weekend has already gotten off to a busy start.  Last night Ellie was supposed to meet her boyfriend at a wedding, only her car was having problems so we drove her into the city and dropped her off at the wedding.  As in, WE ALL DROVE HER.  All of us, plus Joel's girlfriend (pink-haired little doll in the back seat). Ellie loves it when we take her places.  You can tell by how happy she looks sitting there next to Jasper.  Camille also seems to be trying to get as far away from him as possible.
After dumping Ellie we headed to the movies where we split up.  I took the two littlest kids to see Kung Fu Panda (not The Hangover) and Jeff took the older 3 to see the latest X Men movie.

Today finds Ellie packing while her boyfriend and his dad (a mechanic and boy has this come in handy considering Ellie's unfortunate luck with automobiles) work on her car.  In an hour or so we'll take her a few hours away to leave her for a week....she's one of 25 kids accepted from around the world to attend an International Piano Festival.  We'll also be getting Joel to and from work and doing the other usual things that will hopefully include my curling up with a book or two or three.

So there are lots of things weighing on my mind right now.  I'd like to blog about them. But since this blog is mostly my own journal, I find it necessary to occasionally record the day by day happenings of our lives. The things you might not find very interesting, but mean the world to me, nonetheless.  I know that years from now, these will be the posts that will bring me the most joy to read.  Opinions come and go, as do thoughts about this or that....and nobody misses them once they've been expressed and put away....but the small moments and events of my family's lives just run through my fingers like water....and this blog is my small attempt at catching some of them before they evaporate into hazy memories.